Men to Watch at the 2024 Absa Cape Epic

Who to watch when the race gets underway in Lourensford Wine Estate, on Sunday 17 March. 


The UCI Men’s category at the 2024 Absa Cape Epic is shaping up to be a fascinating race with former champions returning, new teammates aplenty and the resumption of a few old rivalries.

Every Absa Cape Epic field seems to outdo the one before with a deeper range of challengers and more big names assembled in South Africa’s Western Cape to do battle in the world’s premier mountain bike stage race. The 2024 edition is no different. The storylines of 2023 are revisited, with plots of revenge simmering. New would-be heroes, or villains (depending on whose side one takes), have entered the fray. Plus, an ageing legend – once the undisputed king of the event – has returned to wind back the clock.

The Five-Star Favourites

Toyota Specialized NinetyOneORBEA LEATT Speed Companyand World Bicycle Relief, start the 2024 race with the distinction of having finished first, second and third last time out. Though it should be said that only Georg Egger and Lukas Baum have maintained their 2023 partnership. Matt Beers pairs up with 2018 champion, Howard Grotts (pictured below), and will have the honour of racing with the Team 1 number boards. Nino Schurter meanwhile could not convince a SCOTT-SRAM factory teammate to race alongside him and as such will be riding for charity with Sebastian Fini.

Racing as Toyota-Specialized-NinetyOne Matt Beers and Howard Grotts for the 2024 Absa Cape Epic.

On paper, these three teams are tough to separate. There is an added incentive for Beers and Schurter too, not that either needs more motivation to win. If Toyota Specialized NinetyOne or World Bicycle Relief win the 2024 Absa Cape Epic, Beers or Schurter will join Jaroslav Kulhavy and Ariane Luthi as three-time winners of the race.

ORBEA LEATT Speed Company fans will point to the dynamic partnership Egger and Baum have forged. The Germans are stronger together than they are in individual races as they feed off each other’s energy. Their friendship and almost telepathic connection could be the difference in the battle against rivals with new teammates.

The Four-Star Favourites 

Canyon SIDI, Buff Megamo and Wilier Vittoria Factory are three teams well suited for springing a surprise on the big three. Andreas Seewald was scheduled to race alongside Martin Stošek, but a late switch by the German team pairs the former XCM World Champion with the Swiss XCM Champion, Marc Stutzmann. Nonetheless, Canyon SIDI remain arguably the most dangerous of the trio of squads, especially with the support of the powerful Canyon SIDI II team of SPAR Swiss Epic winner, Stošek, and Petr Vakoc. They will however not be as popular champions as any team with Hans Becking in it.

The charismatic Dutch marathon specialist is one of the nicest guys in the peloton and would be an exceptionally popular winner if he and his new Buff Megamo teammate, Wout Alleman, were able to pull off an upset. Both Becking and Alleman have won stages before, but an improvement on Becking’s third in 2021 would require a fault-free eight days. Like Seewald and Stošek they will also have the support of teammates to call upon. José Dias and Enrique Morcillo Vergara could thus prove vital.

The Italian combination of Fabian Rabensteiner and Samuele Porro are likewise outsiders for the title. Wilier Vittoria Factory, through their various guises at the Absa Cape Epic, has always been competitive notching up stage wins and top-five placings. Porro even stood on the final podium in 2019, while the 2022 European XCM Champion, Rabensteiner, was fourth on two occasions before.

The Three-Star Favourites 

The next tier of contenders is a complex mix of teams including Wilier Torpado’s Daniel Geismayr and Jakob Dorigoni, the BULLS Mavericks’ Simon Schneller and Urs Huber, Singer Racing’s Simon Stiebjahn and Jakob Hartmann, and the returning legend Jaroslav Kulhavy and his Superior Lions teammate Filip Adel. Of the group, the BULLS Mavericks have the most proven Absa Cape Epic pedigree, in recent years. Like Canyon SIDI they were forced into a late change which could impact their preparation. Axel Roudil-Cortinat suffered a concussion in training, just before he was scheduled to depart for South Africa and thus had to be replaced by the 2016 Absa Cape Epic winner, Huber. The Swiss rider was not preparing for the race however and that will undoubtedly affect his and Schneller’s ability to challenge for stage victories. Kulhavy, meanwhile, could well wind back the clock and shock a few of the fancied teams. The Czeck Express is not famed for his commitment to training, but he is famous for becoming highly motivated by a single exceptional goal. Only he will truly know if this years’ race is one of those moments for him …

Absa African Jersey Contenders

Historically a sixth-place finish, on the general classification, has been good enough to win the Absa African Jersey. Thus, the top all-African team is likely to feature in the top ten overall. Imbuko Pro Cycling A’s Marco Joubert and Wessel Botha would likely be disappointed with ‘just’ a top ten result however, and should be targeting a top five.

They will have fierce competition from PYGA Euro Steel’s Philip Buys and Pieter du Toit, both of whom have won the red jersey competition before. Tristan Nortje, now with Honeycomb Pro Cycling is freed from chaperoning young cyclocross stars around the trails, and will be eager to showcase what he and Marc Pritzen can achieve together.

Toyota Specialized will be a team to keep an eye on too, especially as Alex Miller is one of the riders of the South African early season. He and Johan van Zyl will have dual roles, supporting Beers and Grotts as well as chasing their own Absa African success. Insect Science 1 and 2, Valley Electrical Titan Racing, Imbuko Pro Cycling B, Fuel X, Fairtree DP Cannondale, Pump for Peace, PYGA Euro Steel 2 and Trek SA will also feature in the broader battle. Though the most interesting local team is arguably the returning Julian Jessop. Having won the red jersey alongside Matthys Beukes (himself making a come-back to elite racing and now lining up with Rossouw Bekker for Valley Electrical Titan Racing) in 2018 Jessop stepped away from the sport to complete his accounting articles. He will be racing with The Bike Shop Plett’s Rogan Smart in a combination which will be having more fun than most of their UCI category rivals put together.

Click here for a preview of the women’s race. 

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